Amidst all of the hullabaloo of the Purim celebrations- all the fun and excitement, the simcha, and, of course, the many deep messages of the Chag- most of us miss something very strange about how and when we celebrate this festive Chag.
As we all know, there are two days of Purim- Yerushalayim celebrates on the 15th of Adar, what is known as Shushan Purim, while the rest of the world celebrates Purim on the 14th of Adar. The basis for this is found at the end of Megillat Esther, where the megillah explains that throughout the kingdom of Persia, the Jews destroyed their enemies on the 13th, and then rested on the 14th, whereas in Shushan, the Jews destroyed their enemies on both the 13th and 14th, and then rested on the 15th. Therefore, any walled city, such as Yerushalayim, celebrates on the 15th, to commemorate the celebration in Shushan; while the rest of the world celebrates on the 14th, commemorating the celebration throughout the rest of Persia.
At first glance, this seems to make perfect sense. Upon reflection, however, there is something strange here. Why do we celebrate on the 14th and 15th of Adar, as opposed to the 13th and 14th? If the actual defeat of our enemies happened on the 13th and 14th of Adar, then those are the days that we should be celebrating. Why instead do we celebrate the day after the defeats, the day when the Jews rested from their battles? Shouldn’t we celebrate the day when the miracles actually occurred?
In contrast, consider other Chagim throughout the year that commemorate an event. On Pesach, we celebrate the evening when Am Yisrael is freed by Pharoah. On Channukah, we commemorate the days when the oil actually burnt. On Shavuot, we celebrate the day on which we received the Torah.
So why, on Purim, don’t we celebrate on the days when the miracles occurred- but, rather, on the days after, when nothing special actually happened?
This question is raised by Rav Shlomo Carlebach, and he gives what I believe to be an extremely powerful explanation.
As many commentaries point out, there is a fundamental difference between the miracles of Pesach, and the miracle of Purim. The miracles of Pesach were Nissim geluyim, open and obvious miracles, whereas the miracle of Purim was a neis nistar, a hidden miracle. During the Exodus, G-d’s supernatural involvement was clear. In contrast, G-d’s involvement is entirely hidden during the Purim story- as evidenced by the fact that G-d’s name does not appear in the Megillah at all.
On one level, we might think that the events of Pesach- the magnificent and the supernatural, where G-d’s hand is obvious to all, and His presence is evident in the clearest way possible- would be the preferred way to experience salvation from G-d. Yet at the same time, there is an important advantage when the salvation is brought about through the hidden hand of G-d. Because while it may be harder initially to notice the Yad Hashem, once a person is capable of doing so, he has now armed himself with a new skill- the ability to see Hashem within the hidden.
Rav Hutner, in his Sefer Pachad Yitzchak on Purim, explains this using a mashal. He compares it two people who were commanded to identify certain people during the darkness of night. One person had a candle, and by lighting the candle he was able to identify the people by seeing them. The second person did not have a candle, and therefore he was forced to develop the skill of identifying people through their voice, instead of just by sight. One the one hand, notes Rav Hutner, the former had an advantage in that identifying by sight is much more accurate than by sound. On the other hand, the latter had an advantage in that he gained a new skill that he can use throughout his life.
Those who witnessed Yetziat Mitzrayim and Kriat Yam Suf were certainly fortunate- the clarity with which they merited to see Yad Hashem, and experience His presence, was unparalleled in Jewish history. But they only merited to see Him within the supernatural. In contrast, those who experienced the hidden miracle of Purim had a different advantage- while His presence was harder to notice, once it was discerned and recognized, they had now developed the invaluable skill of seeing Yad Hashem even within the natural world.
And so the true celebration of Purim is not simply the recognition of G-d’s hidden hand within the Purim story itself- but a celebration of our ability to then shift that recognition into seeing G-d’s hidden hand in our own lives as well. To look at all that we have been given- all the incredible gifts that we are blessed with, and the personal miracles that we experience every day; and to appreciate them, to recognize G-d’s hand in them all. That is the message of Purim- seeing G-d within our every day lives.
This is the reason, suggests Rav Shlomo, that we celebrate Purim the day after the actual salvation, a day when nothing actually happened. Because the ultimate goal of Purim is to take this newfound koach, the ability to see G-d within the hidden, and apply it to our every day life.
Rav Shlomo then takes it a step further- and adds that this is why Purim is a day of tremendous potential in our relationship with Hashem. Because when we love someone, then even the most mundane and normal actions that they do can touch us deeply. When a person walks into his child’s room and watches him sleep, even the smallest things, like the way the child breathes, is precious. When a parent’s 3-year-old laughs or does something silly, his heart melts. A person may have no taste for real art, but if his 5-year-old draws him a picture, it becomes a masterpiece. When you love someone, even the smallest thing that they do for you carries tremendous meaning.
On Purim, we try to attain a level whereby we have developed such a closeness with Hashem that He doesn’t need to do supernatural miracles for us in order for us to appreciate Him. Even the small things that He does for us, the everyday miracles, are precious to us and are appreciated deeply. That is the real power of Purim, and the level that we strive to attain on Purim.
Our every day lives as parents are extremely hectic and chaotic. Between our jobs and responsibilities as parents and heads of a household, our days are filled morning till night with much pressure and many tasks. The message of Purim is to make sure, at times, to stop and see the miracles of everyday life- particularly our kids. To realize that each of our children is a miracle, a gift from Hashem. To notice the small nuances of our everyday life that we tend to take for granted- and to appreciate them more. To hug our kids a little tighter and thank Hashem for these amazing miracles that He has given us.
Wishing everyone a Chag Purim Sameach!